Europe has been on many of our bucket lists for a long time. Some people find it interesting that European and Indian cultures are so different. Some people say it’s the mysterious way in which so many different cultures live together in Europe. For others, it’s the continent’s long past. Then there are people who want to let loose on the streets of some of the world’s most exciting places. The list goes on forever.
The best part is that there is always a great place to go in Europe, no matter when you choose to go. It can be a great idea to go to Europe in December. There are also some that are in their “off-seasons,” which is a great time to visit a place without having to deal with high prices and a lot of people.
Why Traveling to European Towns in December Might Not be a Good Idea?
- The temperature is a little bit “bad.” It is cold. It’s raining. It’s snowing. Most of the time, it’s not freezing, but living on the streets could be very uncomfortable. So you have to deal with that and bring more things with you, like winter clothes, long underwear, jeans, and all those other things.
- Many places close in the winter or have shorter hours.
- Europe is a region for walking. You want to walk around and see the buildings, palaces, etc. So you’re going to be outside, and it rains a lot in Europe in the winter.
- Watch out for slick cobblestones, and bring shoes that won’t slip and slide.
- It is dark early. Sometimes you want to go sightseeing, and you might feel a little uneasy walking around Paris at 6 p.m. when it’s dark.
- Get up early and do your tour plan as fast as you can.
Best Places in Europe to Visit in December
Most people may think that warm-weather trips are the only way to enjoy their time off, but there are good reasons to enjoy the cold weather, too. Winter brings the magic of Christmas, the thrill of skiing down big mountains, and the beauty of riding in a sleigh under the stars.
Not every place in Europe is good in the winter, but some thrive when the temperatures drop. Check out our list of the best places to visit in Europe in the winter and what makes each one special.
1. Rovaniemi, Finland
Finnish Lapland is a winter wonderland like no other. Rovaniemi, the region’s main city, may be the best place to see this. Rovaniemi may be the best place to spend Christmas. After all, the town claims to be the official home of Santa Claus. It also has reindeer farms, husky sledding, ice skating rinks, and Northern Lights safaris that make it a must-visit for daring families.
If you’d like something a little less lively and a little more quiet, book a few nights at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Here, you can sip glogg by the fire, eat cloudberry ice cream and smoked salmon, and look at the snow-covered woods from your warm bed.
2. Prague, the Czech Republic
When a dusting of snow covers St. Charles Bridge and the church towers in Old Town, Prague changes completely.
But the city also has some of Europe’s best Christmas markets—at least outside of Germany—where even the most jaded tourist will buy tradelink (fried dough) and mulled wine from festive stands.
3. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, and that’s a fact no matter what time of year it is. But we love the Austrian capital in the winter when you can eat more hot chocolate and sachertorte, watch free outdoor simulcasts of the opera (lots of people go, even when it’s freezing), listen to classical holiday concerts, and take photos of Schonbrunn Palace and St. Charles Church (pictured) covered in snow.
4. Zermatt, Switzerland
Visiting Switzerland during ski season is a no-brainer, especially if you stay in Zermatt. This beautiful tourist town is right at the base of Switzerland’s most famous mountain, the Matterhorn.
There are a lot of serious skiers, fresh powder, and amazing views from the lifts. It also has the best après-ski scene, which, let’s be honest, is just as important as the hills themselves: Enjoy a Lemondrop martini at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof’s Star Bar, refuel with alpine food at Brasserie Lusi, and get a spa session or two at Hotel Firefly.
5. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn has a lot of charm, thanks to its turreted castles and lovely setting on the Baltic Sea. The city has one of the best-preserved historical hubs in Europe. Many of its medieval churches and merchant houses are under UNESCO protection.
The views of the city center from Toompea Castle are beautiful no matter what time of year it is, but they stand out even more when there is snow on the ground. In fact, they make the cold Baltic winters almost tolerable.
6. Zagreb, Croatia
With its cobblestone streets, old city quarter, and baroque buildings, Zagreb has everything you would expect from a Central European capital, plus a few extra perks in the winter. During the city’s yearly Advent in Zagreb festival, there is a lot of holiday cheer.
There are 25 Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, and lots of lights. Fill up on homemade sausages and brandy, then plan a day trip to the nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park to see the 16 terraced lakes and waterfalls that are all frozen over. This is a scene that is hard to imagine and must be seen in person.
7. Bergen, Norway
Bergen has all the features of a perfect Nordic village: bright wooden buildings, a pretty harbor, and sweeping views of the fjords. The town looks nice in the summer, but the best time to see the Northern Lights is in the winter. If you’re going to be cold in Scandinavia, you might as well get to see a celestial wonder while you’re there.
From December to January, the Amsterdam Light Festival lights up the Dutch city with light installations from all over the world. The 11th festival will start on December 1, with the theme “Imagine Beyond” offering more creative pieces of art than ever. Even though the city gets a lot of visitors during the holidays, the number of tourists tends to drop as the weather gets colder.
This means that the later winter months are a great time to enjoy snow-covered canal views and cozy restaurants without crowds. And we swear that Dutch food, which is hearty and has a lot of bread and potatoes, is even more delicious on cold days.
9. Ilulissat, Greenland
Greenland’s western town of Ilulissat is popular with tourists for several reasons, including the UNESCO-listed Ilulissat Icefjord, dog sledding, easy access (you can fly there from Iceland or Denmark), and its closeness to the iceberg-filled Disko Bay.
Most people come in the summer, probably because they want to see the midnight sun, but Visit Greenland advises coming in the winter: “The stunning silence of a thick snowy terrain, punctuated by a few howls of the Greenlandic dog, is an experience everyone should try at least once in their lives.” You’ll also escape high hotel prices and swarms of mosquitoes, which are surprisingly common in Greenland during the summer months.
10. Venice, Italia
During high season, Venice is known for being overrun with tourists. Its latest attempts to limit the number of visitors are proof. But in the winter, the city lives up to its name “The Serene” (La Serenissima).
The canals are quiet and covered in fog, hotel prices are lower, and you can actually visit St. Mark’s Basilica without someone’s selfie stick poking you in the eye.
Most people may think that warm-weather trips are the only way to enjoy their time off, but there are good reasons to enjoy the cold, too. Winter brings the magic of Christmas, the thrill of skiing down big mountains, and the beauty of riding in a sleigh under a cold night sky full of stars.
Not every place in Europe is good in the winter, but some thrive when the temperature drops. Check out our list of the best places to visit in Europe in the winter and what makes each one so special.